U.S. Team Trains In Brazil To Prepare For World Cup
JACKI LYDEN, HOST:
The U.S. men's soccer team has just finished training in Brazil in advance of the World Cup there this summer. The Americans will have a tough lineup and a grueling schedule during the games. NPR's Brazil correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro caught up with the team to talk about all things Brazil.
(SOUNDBITE OF SOCCER PRACTICE)
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: It's summer in Brazil and it's hot, which is just what the U.S. team practicing here on a pitch in Sao Paulo wants. The team got what most observers say is a very unlucky draw - what even the U.S. head coach called the worst of the worst. They'll be battling against stiff competition - Germany, Portugal and Ghana in the first round of the games and they'll be playing in hot and sticky Manaus in the Amazon.
JURGEN KLINSMANN: Originally, we wanted Brazil in the opening game. We didn't get Brazil in the opening game. We got a much easier group than we wanted.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann made light of the situation at a news conference here in Brazil. He said, despite the naysayers, the Americans are ready to face the big soccer nations during the World Cup.
KLINSMANN: We believe that we can give a lot of teams in this World Cup some trouble.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Americans played two friendlies while here against iconic Brazilian Club Sao Paulo. They lost one, they won one. Kyle Beckerman plays center midfield.
KYLE BECKERMAN: Everybody watches Brazil play and the style is a little different. And I think it comes from not only the music and their culture but it comes from the way the weather is. And so each country plays different but the way Brazil plays, it's like they say - it's the samba, you know. And so anytime you get a chance to play against Brazilians or Brazilian team it always, it helps you out a little bit.
(SOUNDBITE OF RATTLING)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: At an event at the U.S. consulate in Sao Paulo, where members of the team spray-painted a wall with young Brazilian players, many team members said they now know what they are dealing with here in Brazil. Brad Evans plays right back.
BRAD EVANS: We came with the purpose of getting a dry run and what we can expect this summer. And, obviously, it's been extremely dry and hot, you know, probably something that we'll face in June. But so far it's been a great experience.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Michael Harrington plays left back.
MICHAEL HARRINGTON: It's the World Cup. It's not an easy tournament. So, we're going to be ready. We've made strides in this camp - strides in our team chemistry and our fitness and our understanding of each other, the players around us. I feel like we're moving in a positive direction, moving forward, so it's been good.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: U.S. Ambassador Liliana Ayalde says there will be a lot of fans to cheer the U.S. team during the tournament.
AMBASSADOR LILIANA AYALDE: Americans have purchased more tickets than any other country. We've got more than 80,000 - the last time I checked - Americans who are planning to come who already have tickets.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Kyle Beckerman says after their 12-day visit here they feel pumped.
BECKERMAN: We're here, so we deserved it. We earned the right to be here. And so anything can happen.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paolo.
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LYDEN: This is NPR News.
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